What does this title mean? I tried searching on google but it says grunt means a sound which a pig makes which doesn't seem to fit the sentence I have taken it from. Following is the sentence of interest.

It was easier in the past to "work your way up the company" – you'd start as a front-line grunt, and have a good chance of becoming a manager later on.

4 Answers 4


This is originally a military reference dating back to at least the Vietnam War. A grunt is a slang term for a soldier in the infantry, typically one of lower ranks.

The "front-line" reference is also carried over from the military context and here transfered to the worker (=grunt) who is tasked with the menial and often dirty or physically exhausting jobs or, in a second step of abstraction, the office worker with the most basic tasks and little personal power.

Modern computer games have picked up the expression and labeled or named "lower" (=weaker, typically appearing in larger numbers) units or enemies "grunts".

  • another way of describing it could be "unskilled laborer"
    – Dragonrage
    Dec 8, 2015 at 21:11

Grunt is used to describe someone with no particular skills and who perform routine tasks it was also used as a slang word for infantryman in the US army. So front-line grunt can be interpreted as lower-level employees with no particular skills.

source : thefreedictionary

  • 1
    Infantrymen (in competent armies) have considerable skills.
    – Jasper
    Dec 8, 2015 at 21:03

Okay, don't laugh. This is something I learnt from one of the 'Pokemon Gameboy games'. The pawns of the villain group were called "Grunts". They had a weak team and could be defeated easily. From that, I assume "Grunts" are those people who must do all the "dirty work". In this context, the grunts will be subjected to a lot of hardship. He must work a lot, and take beatings from his seniors (Metaphorically) and might be subjected to a lot of verbal abuse. Once he starts at the very bottom, and work hard enough and long enough, he could get promoted (here, to a manager). So in general, a grunt is like the smallest position you could get in a company/ organisation. Much like the pawns in chess or the first row of soldiers in the line of a battalion.

Oxford defines a grunt as:

GRUNT : (North American informal)
A low-ranking soldier or unskilled worker.
"he went from grunt to senior executive vice president in five years"


When you have no voice or authority over a situation, and you are expected to follow your leaders orders without question, you are a grunt, which is the only verbal response needed to convey your compliance with an order.

So the "front line grunts" are those individuals who are not expected to plan, but to simply carry out the plan without question.

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